Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Goodnight and Goodbye

Councillor Sue McGuire is on the move - to keep updated with her blog posts and on-line
activity please click here to visit her new site.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Southport Lancashire - Yes Please

I must thank my colleagues in Birkdale for the following information:

Sign the Petition here

The Boundary Commission for England have issued draft proposals to make all Parliamentary constituencies roughly equal in size.  This requires Southport constituency to be expanded, which could be done in one of two ways.

One way would require adding on half of Formby, splitting Formby in two for the first time in its history.  Not surprisingly, the people of Formby seem generally to be unhappy with this idea.

The other idea would be to rejoin Southport with its historic Lancashire hinterland - the villages to the north and east of our town whose people mainly work and shop here and who have already been taken out of the West Lancashire constituency.  Southport newspapers circulate in this area and, not surprisingly, some residents of this area already initially contact the Southport MP, rather than the South Ribble MP.

Coupled with our SouthportLancs MP proposal is an idea to allow the whole of Formby to be re-united with the Ormskirk constituency in which it was placed for most of the past hundred years. Please note that having a shared MP would IN NO WAY affect the pattern of local government provision in the area.

Residents of Southport, Banks, Hesketh Bank, Tarleton etc, have until 5th December to make their views known. You can help us send a clear message to the Boundary Commission by signing our "SouthportLancs MP" petition either online or by downloading a printable copy.

The campaign to have a new Southport constituency including parts of Lancashire has been supported not only by the Liberal Democats and John Pugh MP, but also by the Southport Area Committee and the Southport Party. Parish Councils throughout the neighbouring areas are also being asked to consider supporting the proposals.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Southport Schools to get £677,000 as Pupil Premium

I was delighted today when an email from Sarah Teather MP dropped into my inbox.  Now Liberal Democrat members do get a number of emails from Lib Dem ministers however today's announcement was really well done in terms of communication and content,

The email gave specific information about the schools in Southport which are set to get an extra £677,000 from the Pupil Premium to improve the education of the most disadvantaged children.   This basically translates to an extra £488 for each child on free school meals in the town. 

You can find out what each school in Sefton is getting by clicking here.

As the email from Sarah says this is a real milestone for our party. The Pupil Premium is a policy we devised and campaigned for, and put at the heart of our Coalition negotiations. Now it is more than good policy, it is a reality making a difference to the school down your road. It goes directly into classrooms and will benefit all pupils.

And as chair of the Finance Committee at Marshside Primary School I have to say I am delighted with the increase.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

When going to the gym is a walk in the park

I am delighted to report on the new initiative taken by Sefton Council and NHS Sefton to install gym equipment in a number of its parks with the aim to get more people exercising.  My local park has benefited from 7 different exercise machines including an exercise bike, a rowing machine and a couple of other stretching/lifting contraptions.  The great thing in Hesketh Park is the way these machines have been installed around the park at various discrete locations creating a "circuit".

2 of the exercise machines installed in Hesketh Park

I have in the past been a member of a gym but like a lot of people I was lucky if I got there twice a month but with the equipment n the park I can do a full circuit whilst taking my dog for its daily walk - multitasking at its best. But its not just me using the equipment - I know many many people are taking the same approach and are building it into their daily schedules by getting fit courtesy of a walk in the park.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Talking about fracking with Friends of the Earth

North Meols and the surrounding areas are in the news at the moment as the hunt for shale gas takes off.  The area, on Banks Marsh in the Ribble Estuary, which is part of the Bowland Basin, is currently the latest site for drilling and test fracking exploration by Cuadrilla Resources for this much heralded source of natural gas.

This was also the site this week of a meeting between local Southport councillor Sue McGuire and the new executive director of Friends of the Earth Andy Atkins, who was visiting the area to talk to FOE members and local residents about the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) about to take place here.

Sue & Andy Atkins pictured in a field near the Cuadrilla drilling rig
As Sue explained "This is a huge issue here which I don't think local people have got to grips with yet.  The economic arguments put forward by Cuadrilla must be weighed against the environmental costs of this type of gas exploration and fracking and so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to raise my concerns with Andy."

A local campaign group Ribble Estuary Against Fracking also met with Andy.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Action to Tackle Swan Mess

Local Councillor Sue McGuire has taken action to clear up the path around the north side of the Marine Lake.  As Sue explains "I think the Swans are beautiful and there is nothing quite like watching them take off or land but having them on the lake does have a downside - the mess that they make including feathers, weed and excrement."

Sue has arranged for the small mechanical sweeper to visit the site as a matter of urgency.

Sue added " I always think that if there is already detritus on the path then people are more likely to drop litter or not clean up after their dogs so if we can get the path cleared of this it will give us a clean sheet in terms of managing the area in future."

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

New Health Profiles for 2011 Released Today

The title of the post may not be the most exciting one used on the blog but the information it refers to shines a real light on the health of Sefton in comparison with the rest of the country and the levels of health inequality which exist across Sefton as a whole.

Health Profiles are created by the Department of Health to try and improve availability and access to health and health related information in England.  The profiles are produce annually by the Public Health Observatories in England.

The Health Profiles for Sefton can be viewed here

Friday, 27 May 2011

Taxi Ranks and Parking Spaces

The Southport Area Committee meeting on Wednesday this week included a report on providing additional hackney carriage ranks in Southport town centre.  The report generated a full and frank discussion from councillors of both parties and ended with votes against both the proposed rank on Hill Street and on West Street. The full report can be viewed here.

The discussion also promoted me to ask a number of questions regarding the current rank provision in Southport.  Did you know that there are currently 25 Hackney Carriage Ranks including 2 feeder ranks across Southport (not including those ranks in Ainsdale) with spaces for 75 vehicles.  A  figure which got me thinking - whilst we all appreciate the need for hackney carriages to have ranks, could it be that there are some ranks that are under used or not used at all? If this is the case could these ranks be reduced in size or removed to allow the creation of additional pay and display bays?

As a result of my suggestion a review of rank usage will be undertaken which could have a positive impact on the car parking issues in the centre of Southport.

For example, there is a 5 space taxi rank on the service road outside the British Heart Foundation store (formerly Woolworths) however this is very rarely used and if it was reduced in size to 2 spaces then 3 extra pay & display bays could be created.

Watch this space !

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Road Safety on the Coast Road

Road Safety on the Coast Road was a key topic of discussion at last nights Southport Area Committee - you can see the report here.

There have been 11 fatalities on this stretch of road over the last 10 years in addition to a large number of other road accidents - usually shunts.  For those of you not familiar with Southport, this road runs from the end of the "sea front" to Woodvale and is used by most people as a by-pass around Southport - you can see the satellite picture of the road here  Admittedly, from the map, the road looks like a nice pretty straight route but the road cuts through the sand dunes that make up part of  the Birkdale and Ainsdale Sandhills Nature Reserve.  This effectively means there is no where to go if motorist get into difficulty and although it looks straight there are some deceptive bends which make judging distances difficult.

The report put forward a number of proposals but I, for one, think we need to go further. During the debatet a number additional ideas were suggested including a reduction of the speed limit for the whole length of the road.  Now don't get me wrong, I am not pro-speed however I believe that simply reducing the speed limit from 50mph to 40mph here will not solve the problem and may in fact make the problem worse .  One of the contributory factors in most accidents has been inappropriate overtaking something which I believe is likely to increase if you get motorist travelling at 40 or even 30 miles and hour.  It makes sense then to couple any reduction in speed with measures to prevent overtaking either for the whole length of the road or for specific sections of the road.  A point I made during the debate last night and one which was supported by Police Inspector Fairbrother.

A further report including this suggestion is set to be debated at the Southport Area Committee meeting in July .

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Cricket Balls & Lord Denning

A number of residents have contacted me regarding the on-going problem of stray cricket balls in their gardens which they feel is having a direct impact on their quality of life.  Since the local cricket season started residents have felt so unsafe that they are no longer sitting or even going into their gardens on match days.

It seems however that this is not a problem with an easy solution and in fact there are a number of court cases dealing with exactly this issue, including Miller v Jackson [1977] QB 966 in which Lord Denning began with a rather lyrical opening "In summertime village cricket is the delight of everyone." and the case of Bolton v Stone [1951] AC 850, [1951] 1 All ER 1078 which actually went to the House of Lords.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

What's done is done

Last night my husband took me out in Liverpool -  well maybe not the most exciting opening sentence to a blog post I admit but since it doesn't happen very often I thought I would share it with you. Anyway given the infrequency of this can you imagine my even greater delight to find out that he had got tickets to see David Morrissey in Macbeth at the Everyman 

Macbeth is one of my favourite plays with  its politics, power struggles and episodes of madness  not to mention 3 witches with the power to determine fates.  I have studied the play several times whilst at school but have never seen it.  You could almost taste the tension as the stage was set for the first act and the Everyman was a fantastic venue.  The way that the spaces within the theatre were used by the actors meant everyone in the audience felt a part of the production.

The performances of the whole cast were great and being a bit of a David Morrissey fan I thought he blew the place apart as Macbeth. And when the last curtain call came the whole cast were greeted by a standing ovation.

David also introduced the audience to the charity CAST - the CREATIVE ARTS SCHOOLS TRUST that he is actively involved in which takes all aspects of the performing arts to those places worlwide that have no artistic provision or facilities. 

A great night and well worth a trip (if there are any tickets left)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Local Election Results 2011 - THANK YOU

Unfortunately Cambridge Ward local election this year was won by the Conservatives with a majority of just 16 votes. Obviously your Lib Dem Team are disappointed by the result however 16 votes is not a landslide and we will be working hard to retake the seat next year.

We had a great candidate in Lauren Keith who was set to replace the retiring Lib Dem Councillor Carmel Preston. Lauren worked hard during the campaign showing a great enthusiasm, commitment and energy which will make her a brilliant councillor in the future.

In the main, our support held up strongly but, as in many other places, national politics overshadowed the local campaign.

A huge thank you to everyone in the ward, from Lib Dem members, supporters and residents who helped with the campaign.  A big thank you also to all those residents who did vote for Lauren this year and who continue to recognise and support the work of the Liberal Democrats both here in Cambridge ward and across Southport.

Lauren and Sue preparing for election day 2011

Friday, 8 April 2011

Phone Mast Application S/2011/0362

An application seeking planning permission to erect a mobile phone mast within the grounds of the Fleetwood Hesekth Sports & Social Club has been submitted  to Sefton Council.

The application is to install a 12.5m high slim line monopole supporting 6 antennas would be sited behind the current conifer hedge along Fylde Road. Click here to view the application in full and enter S/2011/0362.

We have demanded, and made sure,  that this planning application is properly considered by the full Sefton Council planning committee of councillors because of concerns expressed by some local residents.  The meeting takes place on 4th May at Southport Town Hall at 6.30pm.

To object, write to Sefton Council’s Planning Department, Magdalen House, 30 Trinity Road, Bootle L20 3NJ or use the on-line comments form. The deadline for receipt of objections is 10am Thursday 28th April however given the Bank Holiday weekend and the Easter break the sooner objections are received the better. A petition from a minimum of 25 residents and signed/supported by a local councillor (which we, of course, would agree to do) gives one of the petitioners the opportunity to speak for 5 minutes at the planning committee meeting.

We should tell you, in all honesty, that the legally valid reasons for turning down such an application are limited. Councillors on the Planning Committee are required to work within national planning legislation. For example, health concerns are technically not lawful reasons for rejection, although that does not, of course, stop you saying what you feel. Issues worth mentioning include things like loss of visual amenity overbearing nature of the mast and, of course, anything that you personally think is important.

It would be misleading of us to suggest or forecast the outcome or build up hopes of refusal given the fact that whatever the planning committee decides, the phone company usually appeals and an independent Planning Inspector subsequently gives permission. And that decision is final with no further right of appeal.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Crocus Walk 2011

The annual Crocus Walk for Charity Breakthrough Breastcancer was a great success.

It was a good turnout despite the fact that the weather wasn't quite as glorious as it had been the rest of last week. Since it began nine years ago the event has raised more than £16,000.

We are in the process of collecting the final bits of sponsorship money, and will let you know the final amount raised soon.

I do need to apologise to the people who lost their balloons due to my inability to tie string to things. Its one skill I really need to hone!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Sefton Budget Meeting

I attended Sefton's Budget meeting on Thursday expecting to hear arguments from both sides relating to the national political situation. I knew what was coming. Labour Councillors would shout that our party had sold itself down the river and had willingly and eagerly submitted to be the sword sharpeners for the killer Tory cuts. Our side would scream back with equal vehemence that Labour spent needlessly and recklessly and that is the reason why cuts have to be made.

I mistakenly thought (and hoped) that there would then be some sort of rational discussion regarding the actual budget. I thought that Labour would have their fun, and then be sensible.

Sadly not. They voted against the proposed £2.5 million cuts because they argue that it is not necessary, that local communities will suffer and jobs will be lost. They claimed that it is they alone who care about the interests of workers and residents of Sefton. If this was really the case they would not have been rubbing their hands in as much glee as they were doing last Thursday. One Councillor claimed that he couldn't wait for May 5th to come to see the Lib Dems fall at the electoral hurdle. Another shockingly claimed that the Liberal Democrats should be held responsible for any suicides of young adults. Added to this were the (now incredibly tiresome) coalition jokes relating to bed sharing, and another one gave us an attempt at a bizarre potted history of the banking crisis.

What any of this had to do with children's services, or the wasteful millions of pounds being spent on the Southport market that could have been stopped at the meeting, but which Labour clings to is anybody's guess. You can argue until the cows come home about the speed and scale of cuts and the fact that this debate has split economists, let alone politicians, highlights that there is certainly a lot of debate to be had. However, a local council budget meeting is certainly not the place.

Regardless of whether Councillors agree or disagree with Government decisions, a local budget has to be set. Because of the make-up of our Council, and the positions on the Cabinet that the party occupies means that they are at the heart of this decision making process. Of the £44 million that have to be made, they have voted against £39 million.

Their colleagues in Liverpool City Council have been able to work constructively with the Liberal Democrats to produce a budget, so it really begs the question of why the Sefton group think they have the right to be so intransigent.

They cling to national arguments and jokes because they are the only things they have to say. They have not engaged in the process of budget scrutiny because they have decided they don't want to. Yet things are not as black and white as they portray. They claimed that the Liberal Democrats were against creating jobs because we are opposed to the £3 million being spent on Southport Market. I really fail to see how shelling out on £26,000 on granite seats is going to boost local employment. Ploughing money into a scheme will not make it a success; and less money invested in a more sensible manner would be far more productive.

The fact is there is not the money available to deliver services in the way that we are all used to. Children's Centres and Youth Centres simply cannot be maintained in the form in which they currently exist. That's why Conservative and Liberal Democrat Councillors voted for less money to be taken out of their budgets for this year to keep the centres open. This will mean more time to look at how the services can be kept going in the future. Cuts do not have to mean the end; In fact this is an opportunity for local communities and charities to play more of a part in running institutions.

So, while the two other parties have had sleepless nights, have done all that they can to make tough decisions in a short space of time, Labour Councillors have taken the easy way out. They have kicked back on the sidelines, abnegated responsibility and been paid for this by the very same people that they are claiming to want to help and support. Frankly its a very poor idea of public service.

And just to clear up the Labour myth that the state of our nations finances is a nice cover dreamt up by a spin doctor to legitimise ideological cuts. Here is a quote from an article in The Observer no less, in May 2008:

"Brown's love affair with the city was at first a welcome break from the Spartist tendencies of old Labour, but there was far too little challenge to monstrously bloated bonus packages and the sort of inventive banking practices that led to the Northern Rock debacle. Public spending continued apace long after the International Monetary Fund began issuing pleas for restraint. Government borrowing as a proportion of national income is now higher than that of most other G7 countries, leaving only a thin cushion against the impending economic headwinds."

Sefton Labour Councillors must be very glad that they didn't win the election then. They would have been denied their set pieces and had to face reality.

Monday, 28 February 2011

The story of the loose stones

In response to a question from a resident of the road, the LibDem team have turned sleuths to discover the truth behind the "loose stones" on Marshside Road.

Focus Editor Lauren Keith and Councillor Sue McGuire inspect Marshside Road
following reports that the recently resurfaced road is not up to scratch. 

The road, which was resurfaced last year, now has signs warning drivers of lose stones.  It appears that the recent severe weather may have caused the newly laid surface to disintegrate creating a significant amount of loose chippings on the highway and a visually scarred surface.  Officers from the Council have met with the highway contractor who undertook the resurfacing work land it has been agreed that the contractor will undertake remedial work at his own expense later in the year.

In the meantime, the Council will continue to monitor the condition of the road and will do further sweeping if necessary.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Crocus Walk marches on in fight against breast cancer

This years Crocus Walk for Breakthrough Breast Cancer will be taking place at 11am on Saturday 26th March at Hesketh Park.

The walk now in its ninth year is open to everyone and we are encouraging as many people as possible to take part. As local activist Lauren Keith, explained “Everybody is welcome! It can be a nice relaxing stroll around the park to admire the Spring flowers, a healthy jog or, for those more energetic, a sprint! Over the years its raised thousands of pounds for a great cause. Statistics out earlier this year indicate that the chances of getting breast cancer have risen from one woman in nine to one woman in eight. This means it’s more important than ever for money to be raised not only to help those already suffering with the disease, but to be directed towards more research into the disease.
Lauren Keith and Sarah Harding stepping out at last years event

Lauren adds "Please bring along lots of family and friends, and help to make this a record breaking fundraising year.”

For more details about the walk contact Councillor Sue McGuire on 07766968162 or email laurenpkeith@googlemail.com

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Locomotives of History

I felt a bit guilty sitting in my nice family kitchen eating my poached egg for breakfast while reading this morning’s Independent. The front page carried a picture of Bahraini protesters on the streets on Manama, with the headline ‘They didn’t run away. They faced the bullets head on.’

Robert Fisk has been leading the journalistic charge. His accounts from the streets of Egypt and now Bahrain have been fascinating, insightful and highly emotive.

People have been drawing parallels between the Egyptian protests and the Iranian revolution of 1979. However, the marked difference is the lack of Anti-American and Western feeling . Ayatollah Khomeini’s traditional Shia Islamism appealed to a people who felt their culture had been eroded by the Shah, who was of course a symbol of colonialism, having been installed after the West had decided that Prime Minister Mossadegh was far too dangerous after he had had the audacity to nationalise what had been the British controlled Anglo-Iranian oil industry.

The current protests are less to do with religion and culture, and are more to do with jobs and democracy. Frustration and despair that the police were preventing him from selling his fruit and vegetables drove twenty five year old Ahmed Hashem el-Sayed to set himself alight, kickstarting the Egyptian protests. The unrest that started in Tunisia and which is spreading throughout the Arab world, actually bears more resemblance to the European revolutions of 1848.

These revolutions are often overlooked, obviously overshadowed by the First World War and the massive political and social changes that this heralded. 1848 saw revolutions in many countries including France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. Like the current protests, people across many of these countries had common problems. In 1848, new and radical ideas where taking hold; ideas that were later to form the backdrop to the First World War. The Habsburg Empire, Germany and Italy were all made up of many states comprising many nationalities. Nationalism and democratic ideas were gaining currency; yet many people were still peasants, tied by bonds of servitude that had changed little since Medieval times and ruled by absolutist monarchies.

These Revolutions failed to make as much impact as many at the time thought they would. It did result in the French Second Republic and lasting reforms in Denmark and the Netherlands, but in many other countries it simply petered out. One of the reasons behind this was that Government’s offered moderate reforms, which satisfied the protesters. In many cases, these ‘reforms’ didn’t occur and in some cases regimes cracked down to ensure that rebellion couldn’t flare up again. For instance in Hungary, the Emperor of the Hapsburg Empire, Ferdinand, promised the country a constitution, yet this failed to materialise and Hungary ended up under brutal martial law.

The protesters of 1848 were not people who had any experience of questioning the status quo; ideas about personal freedom and liberalism were still in their infancy. Also, it’s fair to say that they were more trusting of what their monarchs and Governments promised. In a world of instant communication protests are not hard to start, and so unlike 1848 this genie will be very difficult to put back into the bottle.

I hope that the protesters in Bahrain and Egypt can achieve concrete, democratic changes, that really do transform politics and society. As Marx said, ‘Revolutions are the locomotives of history.’ Lets hope they keep moving!

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Big Society is nothing new!

I recently stumbled across a dog eared copy of Winifred Holtby's novel 'South Riding' in a charity shop. I had never heard of the novel or its author, but it is one of the best and most emotive books I have read.

By a strange coincidence BBC One have just filmed a version of it which starts next Sunday, but its actually not very strange at all. While this book was written in 1935 the message it has is still resonant and relevant now. Its about a community and its political figures making and dealing with tough economic times and decisions, and through her fantastically defined and vibrant characters she explores deeper questions about what society means and how people in a community are affected and impacted by even the smallest decisions that people can often unconsciously make.

As we enter a new 'age of austerity,' as focus shifts to what decisions are being taken at a local level and Prime Minister David Cameron announces that it is his 'mission' to make the Big Society a successful initiative, this book and its ideas make fascinating reading.

The 'Big Society' as defined by the Prime Minister is based on the premise that both the traditional politics of the left and right have failed; that the introduction of the welfare state meant that people became detached from traditional associations with guilds and other civic society organisations. Then Margaret Thatcher's big bang came along with all the de-regulation that happened in the City and turned us all into selfish beings governed simply by a sense of rugged individualism.

So now, the focus apparently has to be shifted away from Government and back on to society to empower people. While the central theory is a great idea the concept is proving difficult to communicate as there seems to be a lot of reference to stock phrases such as 'social recovery,' 'broken Britain,' and 'social cohesion'. You need look no further than the Chair of the Government Committee on the Big Society, Francis Maude's, appearance on last weeks Question Time to see that those apparently in charge of the policy don't really know what it is they are defining.

I think they should have stuck to what we Lib Dems have been championing for a while...Localism. This isnt as airy fairy as the 'Big Society' slogan, which, lets face it, was probably dreamt up in a drab boardroom in a think tank in London. Localism has already begun to be implemented following the introduction of the Localism Bill which confers greater powers on residents when it comes to planning and service need, and gives them the ability to hold their local institutions to greater account.

Devolving more powers to people at a local level will automatically integrate communities as people come together to campaign, or to oppose and propose various initiatives or schemes. Essentially Local Government will act as a springboard for a bigger, more vibrant, society.

I'll leave you with some of Winifred's wise words on the importance of Local Government:

"But when I came to consider local government, I began to see how it was in essence the first line defence thrown up by the community against our common enemies-poverty, sickness, ignorance, isolation, and social maladjustment. The battle is not faultlessly conducted, nor are the motives of those who take part in it all righteousness or disinterested. But the war, is, I believe worth fighting...we are not only single individuals, each face to face with eternity and our separate spirits; we are members one of another."

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Planning Application S/2011/0117 for Hatherlow House, 29 Park Crescent

An application seeking planning permission to erect a part three, part four storey residential care development comprising 35 individual suites at the Hatherlow House site has been submitted  to Sefton Council. This will involve the demolition of the current building.

As Lauren explained "I have some concerns regarding this application given that the current building is so very iconic for this area of Southport forming as it does a gateway entrance for Hesketh Park.  It is vital that developers work with the original building as much as possible to retain the architectural character of this area of Southport."

To see the full planning application please go to the Sefton Council web site  If you would like to object you can write to Sefton Council’s Planning Department, Magdalen House, 30 Trinity Road, Bootle L20 3NJ or complete the online form.

It is also possible to organise a petition against the application. The petition must be supported by at least 25 residents and signed/supported by a local councillor (which Cllr Sue McGuire would be very happy to do). If a petition is raised it will provide the opportunity for one of the petitioners to speak for 5 minutes at the planning committee meeting.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Waving My Baby Off

At 6am this morning you could find me, together with a number of other parents, standing anxiously by a coach to wave our babies off on their school trip to Belgium to visit the World War 1 cemeteries in Ypres. (I say babies loosely - my son is 13 years old and nearly 6 foot tall but you get the idea)

The fact that they are studying World War 1 got me thinking back to my days at high school and the history I studied - from the Italian Renaissance to James II.  Thrilling as they were, they are not topics which come up too often in conversation and not ones which really prepare you for today's world. So I was really pleased to learn the Key Stage 3 History Curriculum now includes the following topics:
European and world history

  • the impact of significant political, social, cultural, religious, technological and/or economic developments and events on past European and world societies
  • the changing nature of conflict and cooperation between countries and peoples and its lasting impact on national, ethnic, racial, cultural or religious issues, including the nature and impact of the two world wars and the Holocaust, and the role of European and international institutions in resolving conflicts.
If we want our children to understand the world today and their part in it then its vital that they are given the opportunity to study those recent events which have shaped it and this means not glossing over the history of the 20th Century or the Two World Wars (as I believe happened in my day).  

Children must see and study for themselves the effect wars have on real people, on governments and on countries. Its essential that their view of war is not dictated by Hollywood blockbusters or more worryingly by graphic video games.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Paper on the back of your car window

Not sure how true the following or how often it has happened but I thought I would post onto the blog.


You walk across the car park, unlock your car and get inside. You start the engine put it into Reverse.  When you look into the rearview mirror to back out of your space, you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So, you stop and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view. When you reach the back of your car, that is when the carjackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off.

And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car.
So now the carjacker has your car, your home address, your money, and your keys. Your home and your whole identity are now compromised!

So think on - if you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window, lock your doors and just drive away. You can remove the paper later. 
And be thankful that you read this blog post.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Save the Cheque!

The campaign to save the cheque is getting underway, as the below article in the Southport Visiter shows.


Please make sure to sign the petition which you will find at the bottom of the edition of 'Southport News' which should be winging its way through your door any day now!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Future Funding of Public Health or How Much Will LA's Get ?

Earlier this week, I attended the regular meeting of the Oversight & Scrutiny Committee for Health & Social Care for Sefton Council.  I think this is a fantastic committee that is chaired superbly by my lib dem colleague Anthony Hill.  The meeting on Tuesday included a presentation by Hannah Chellaswamy; Acting Director of Public Health (NHS Sefton  & Sefton Council ), Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England

Basically under the new proposals the responsibility for public health will return once again to the Local Authorities, after an absence of 40 years. At the meeting there was an open and frank discussion around this during which I raised the question of funding since in my experience its always good to know where the money is. From April 2013 local authorities will receive a ring fenced public health budget however what I wanted to know is how this budget is going to be decided, effectively what funding formulae is going to be used to determine how much each LA would receive.

This question generated a debate around the various communities that make up Sefton however Hannah was at this stage unable to give a clear answer and it was agreed that this question would form part of the response from Sefton Council to the NHS white paper.

Imagine my delight then when later that evening I was able to pose exactly the same question to Paul Burstow MP Lib Dem Health Minister.

I have to say Paul understood exactly the point I was trying to make and agreed that he would look into the possibility of using the Super Output Area data from Indices of Multiple Deprivation to determinine the funding stream.

Now thats what I call communication!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Gobsmacked by NHS Bosses decision

In the past I have posted on here about the ongoing (7 years plus) campaign to get some form of emergency service for children in Southport. In my last posting on the subject NHS Stitch Up I explained how we had reached stalemate and how we hoped that a meeting with the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley may be able to move the situation forward.

Well, the revised report requested by the Minister has been produced and guess what absolutely no movement with regard to the Primary Care Trusts decision regarding a WIC for Children in Southport. You could even say that their position has become even more entrenched when NHS bosses say that there is no need for any children's facility and that nobody wants one anyway.

The public consultation undertaken as part of this report and which the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley specifically asked to be included is farcical  - the equivalent of asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

Harsh comments I know but I should add that the report does highlight some positive steps forward in health service provision for children in Southport. There will be better care for those children with long term health conditions and complex needs, there will also be a return of some outpatients clinics to Southport (they shouldn't have been moved in the first place but don't get me started), and better provision for children and adolescent mental health services.

So where to from here - one of the main points in this 2nd report is the creation of a Children's Hub at the Houghton Street Health and Wellbeing clinic in Southport town centre.  This clinic, which is part of the LIFT (PFI) Project in Sefton already holds a newly commissioned Darzi Practice so maybe there is the potential here for a GP led MIU.  Certainly it is something that should be investigated further.

So once again I ask you to watch this space.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

we are banking on change..

Bankers bonuses have provided a convenient side show for a lot of the media and trade unions, who rage against the bonus culture and believe that its this that is the root of all banking evil.

Truth is, the crash didn't just come about because a lot of men (and the odd woman no doubt) got paid an excessive amount of money to take silly risks. It was far more complex than that, and had as much to do with poor regulation and systemic weaknesses than bankers greed.

Its good to see that the Independent Banking Commission established by Osborne and Cable has recommended 'wide-ranging reform.' One of the possibilities would be to separate investment arms of banks from their retail operations, which would mean that if the investment arm of an institution failed, it could fold without impacting upon depositors sums.

Banks were bailed out in 2008 because they were judged 'too big to fail;' the task now is to ensure that there is a banking system that does not and cannot rely on the state to step in if things go pear shaped . What is also to be welcomed about this Commission's findings is that they recognise that the EU Basel rules, introduced last summer are not adequate, and that bigger banks such as Barclays and RBS should be required to hold more than the 7% minimum ratio of equity capital to assets that Basel set down. This is essentially a buffer fund in the event of a bank going insolvent, and should in theory prevent taxpayers footing a bail out.

Bubbles are nothing new. The first recorded speculative bubble was in the mid 1600's and centred around tulips; the beginning of this century saw the dot com bubble bursting. However, the Housing bubble almost brought the world financial system to its knees because banks failed to have adequate capital, and the slicing and dicing of 'bad debt' into various financial packages that were passed to and fro within the system without being subject to adequate checks. This Commission's findings are a reminder that things are going to have to change, and lessons must be learned.

At the same time there has to be a dose of reality in the debates and arguments around the banking industry. Change has to be made; but the industry has to retain a competitive edge especially now when it is massively important for the private sector economy to grow and jobs to be created.

Essentially the Commission is proposing tougher rules on the amount of capital that institutions hold, and also questioning the wisdom of just six banks controlling 90% of the UK's deposits. Lets hope that George Osborne and Vince Cable have the courage to act when the Commission reports its full findings later on this year, in the face of the inevitable lobbying and PR onslaught from the British Bankers Association.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Over but not out...

It will feel strange not heading up to Oldham this week. How I will miss the steep hills, murky weather and extremely irritated constituents who were receiving at least three telephone canvassers, four door canvassers and an untold amount of literature a day.

Of course, By-elections are treated as a barometer of public political feeling and as a result immense money, time and effort gets ploughed in by all parties.

After reading the newspapers, watching Newsnight, listening to the radio and following national YouGov polls, you could be forgiven for thinking that the result was going to be a foregone conclusion: Labour romping home to victory.

Well this wasn't what happened. Yes, our candidate Elwyn Watkins came second, but we actually increased our vote share to 31.9%.

Bear in mind Oldham East and Saddleworth has been a Labour seat for the previous FOUR general elections, and was a Labour hold at the height of Clegg mania. According to the Labour party and its new leader Ed Miliband the Coalition are being reckless with people's livelihoods, cutting too fast and generally being nasty. Most of the election literature centred round the VAT tax bombshell, and tuition fees. (erm, Labour introduced tuition fees and Darling also had plans to raise the tax....) If this was indeed true, then Labour would and should have stormed to victory.

On the doorsteps it was apparent that many people understand why cuts have to be made and are quite aware that while Labour have quietly admitted that they would also have to have made cuts, they have not outlined any sort of credible plan. It was also clear that even at a late stage many people had genuinely not made up their mind about whether they would vote Labour or Lib Dem. This really doesn't bear out the argument that the Lib Dems are now seen as synonymous with the Conservatives, or that all those who voted for us in May now feel disillusioned and angry and are turning to Labour in their droves.

Electorally, Labour should be in the perfect position. Grim economic times and Government cuts make great fodder for media soundbites and big speeches. With no responsibility for balancing the budget and making tough decisions, its easy to criticise and level the charge of unfairness. However, the election result proves that there are many voters who can see through this, and that core Lib Dem support is holding up well and not flooding to Labour, as Miliband desperately hopes it will.

In the words of Tim Farron ... 'And let’s not forget, the last time a Government party made a by-election gain was in 1982 amid the chaos and fear of the Falklands War, so unless we had persuaded some far off country to invade British territory we were always going to be up against it!'

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Its the right way up!

I spotted that Mark Pack wrote an article on Lib Dem Voice regarding Conservative MP Nick Boles' book 'Which Way's Up?'

Its worth a read (and not only because it is very thin and can easily be read in a day!) Its fascinating because its essentially a Conservative MP setting out his arguments about why he believes the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives should form an electoral pact.

An electoral pact is not something I would want to see happen. I joined the Liberal Democrats because unlike the other main parties it has a strong democratic party structure, attracts and welcomes a diverse range of people and has principled and strong Parliamentarians. Its a party that believes in hard work and campaigning at a local and national level, with fairness really at the heart of the agenda.

But enough of this party political broadcast! What is important about this book, and what I think is important to stress when we Lib Dems are labelled as 'sell-outs' and 'unprincipled,' is that it emphasises that the Conservatives are NOT the party of the 1980's. In fact, Nick Boles identifies five key areas where policy overlaps: environment, importance of personal freedom, desire to give local communities more power, offering more opportunities to those born into poverty, and the need to kickstart the economy and revive investment and exports.

If these aren't progressive aims, then I don't know what is. Far from being a 'sell-out' this Coalition is going to give us an opportunity for many of our aims to be realised. Look no further than the Localism Bill to see that things are starting to happen. It would have been a sell-out if we had walked away from the negotiating table, or worse entered into an unstable 'rainbow' coalition with the Labour Party.

Yes, that progressive Labour party which let a housing bubble run unchecked and kept low earners languishing in the income tax bracket while spending money recklessly on quangos and needless bureaucracy. Not to mention a legally dubious invasion of Iraq.

The power and right of the individual is at the heart of this Government, and that is the central tenet of Liberalism. We definitely made the right call.